“We already have an in-house team, why do we need an agency?”
Many marketing teams find themselves asking this question when executing a new project, a re-branding, or even for tactical pieces of an overall marketing strategy. Regardless of the team’s size and experience, many marketers face similar challenges when it comes to time constraints and gaps in expertise and knowledge that could be filled with some outside help. Sometimes it is o.k. and even preferable to hire an agency to work in tandem with an internal team. Here’s what you should consider when hiring an agency and how to maximize the relationship.
The Role of the Agency
Understanding the roles is a crucial first step in ensuring the success of a company-agency collaboration. In-house teams have a home-team advantage when it comes to knowing their audience, being subject matter experts, and understanding the inner-workings of their companies. However, because they are so focused on one company or one industry, they can lose sight of the larger marketing landscape, creating an “island effect.” In addition, companies select their marketing teams based on specific skill sets, therefore creating gap in talent needed to tackle complex projects.
According to Ryan Hall, Director of Brand Strategy at Fifteen4, a full-service marketing agency based in Baltimore, the role of the agency is to not only help fill in the gaps, but more importantly “to push the company to an area they have never been.” He says that while inside teams have the valuable subject matter expertise that the agency must respect and understand, the agency “can bring an outside perspective that is hard to see outside the walls of their team.”
Consider the Project Scope
So, what types of projects are best left to internal teams? “It really depends on who the agency is,” Ryan said. Agencies focused on production are best for quick-turn projects, allowing the internal team to move on without worrying about the package. On the other hand, the internal team may have enough bandwidth to handle the quick-turn projects but don’t have time to think about the overall strategy. “It is mostly dependent upon the agency’s and the team’s capabilities and which can complement each side best,” he said.
Transparency and Communication are Key
One of the most valuable contributions that an internal team can offer an agency is unfiltered information about the challenge, according to Ryan. He notes that while agencies can help companies approach marketing challenges differently and operate more efficiently by complementing their expertise, internal teams are aware of the internal politics and bureaucracy that can keep projects stagnant. He admits, this is sometimes the hardest barrier to overcome when it comes to having a successful partnership. It is crucial for clients to set clear expectations from the start and help navigate potential internal roadblocks that could hinder the creative and strategic process. “The best internal teams provide a comprehensive view of their business and marketing landscape. The more detail, the better,” Ryan said.
Getting from Hired Help to Business Partner
On-boarding a new agency is a time commitment and is something that companies need to consider. Think of the phrase, “The more you put in, the more you will get out.” If enough information is shared from the beginning and proper steps are taken to educate the agency about the brand foundation, strategies in place, and KPI’s, the more the agency will be able to serve as an extension of the company, not just an outside contractor. As Ryan sums it up, “A true agency partner will ask questions, challenge you, and bring that outside perspective that is naturally difficult to achieve internally. In my experience, working in-house and at an agency, I can truly say that having a trusted agency partner to collaborate with is invaluable.”
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